29 February 2024

Forget the cupcakes, Jenny Rolfe-Wallace wants financial equality for International Women's Day

| Chris Roe
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woman in auditorium seating with sign

Financial education specialist Jenny Rolfe-Wallace believes that women shouldn’t settle for “the crumbs”. Photo: Chris Roe.

“Let’s not just have pink cupcakes, let’s smash the whole cake!” declared financial educator Jenny Rolfe-Wallace, explaining the motivation behind her upcoming International Women’s Day event in Wagga.

It’s not that Jenny has anything in particular against cupcakes, but she wants us to look past the pink icing and social media hashtags to sink our teeth into something more substantial.

“I don’t sugarcoat stuff and I say, this is where we’re at, and it’s not good enough – particularly in terms of financial inequality,” she said.

The theme for IWD 2024 is Count Her In: Invest in Women, Accelerate Progress and the 1 March forum at the CSU Riverina Playhouse will ask the question: Can you afford that cupcake?

“International Women’s Day has its foundations in protest and I’ve felt that in recent years, all these hashtags have started taking over and it’s become all about pink cupcakes and ‘Go women!’,” Jenny explained.

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The crunch moment came several years ago after she delivered an IWD presentation on where Australia was at in terms of financial inequality.

“At that time, the gender pay gap had narrowed by about 0.1 per cent but it was still sitting around 17 per cent, and my presentation was all about how we need action at the individual, collective, social and policy levels,” she explained.

“Then I went to a lunch event and someone got up and said, ‘Isn’t it great the gender pay gap is closing?’ and I remember feeling like a little bit of me died inside.

“It’s a balance, because celebration is important, but if all we do is celebrate the breadcrumbs under the table, we are never going to be sitting at the table.”

Australian women are more likely than men to experience financial insecurity, and poverty and homelessness, particularly among older women, are on the rise.

Jenny has brought together a diverse group of five panellists to share their lived experiences and expertise and to examine a way forward for greater economic inclusion for women and girls.

“In the area of financial education, we have had a lot of white, affluent men who have been the spokespeople for the industry, and it’s problematic because their lived experience doesn’t reflect the vast majority of the community,” Jenny said.

“We know that there are additional challenges if you’re a woman, or if you have a disability, or you’re a First Nations woman or come from a CALD [culturally and linguistically diverse] background.

“We need to listen to the broad lived experiences of women and hear the very real challenges that they face and not just put the onus on the individual, because a lot of it is systemic.”

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The format will allow the opportunity for questions and dialogue with the panellists, and Jenny hopes the night will motivate attendees to advocate for real change.

“I want people to get inspired and to feel angry about the systemic issues that put barriers in front of people when it comes to achieving financial equality and financial security,” she said.

“It’s not just a matter of working hard and just ‘pulling yourself up by the bootstraps’ because not everyone has boots to start with.

”We need to feel inspired about doing things as an individual, as a collective, as a community and as a society, and to demand change from policymakers.”

Can you afford that cupcake? is at the CSU Riverina Playhouse on Friday, 1 March, at 6 pm and you can book tickets now.

You can also hear a preview of Jenny’s new podcast, It’s Not About the Money, which will be launched at the event.

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